Suggesting that Google's headset is a huge distraction behind the wheel, the UK government is already taking steps to protect other road users, even though the company's first wearable technology device won't launch until some time in 2014.
Speaking to Stuff, a Department for
Transport (DfT) spokesman said: "We are aware of the impending rollout of Google Glass and are in discussion with the Police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving. It is important that drivers give their full attention to the road when they are behind the wheel and do not behave in a way that stops them from observing what is happening on the road."
Passing legislation would put the device in the same category as handheld phones, the use of which while driving in the UK has been illegal since December 2003.
Technophiles who are counting down the days until the smart headset finally launches may feel that they are being unfairly discriminated against, but the UK is simply following the precedent set in the US where a number of states, including West Virginia are in the process of legislating against Google Glass use while behind the wheel. Interestingly, the makers of a Google Glass competitor, GlassUp claim that because of how its screen is positioned, using Google Glass is akin to glancing in a car's rear-view mirror -- in other words, its use requires the wearer not only to take their eyes off the road, but to refocus their gaze in order to read text displayed on the screen.
However, the headset doesn't simply provide text updates, it can also display photos and stream video, and looking at a screen in order to view images -- e.g., a TV -- has been illegal for British drivers for some 30 years.
Despite these safety concerns, the North American arm of Mercedes-Benz revealed in July that its research and development team is actively working with the headset in order to develop a seamless GPS experience that would recognize when the wearer was in a car and when he or she was on foot and automatically adapt navigation directions to suit.
For the uninitiated, Google Glass looks extensively like a pair of reading glasses, but without the lenses. It has a built-in microphone and bone conductive headphone for responding to voice commands and for acting like a hands-free smartphone headset. It can also record sound and video, take photos and display web pages, text messages, notification alerts and other multimedia content via a tiny prism screen mounted over one eye. Though diminutive, the experience is said to be akin to looking at a 25-inch full HD screen at a distance of 2 meters.
The smart headset is currently in its development phase. As well as Google employees, a number of app and other software developers have special ‘Explorer' editions of the device, as do 2000 US citizens that entered and won a competition to test the gadget.
The latest reports suggest that Google would like to offer a further 2000 members of the US public the chance to test Google Glass in order to accelerate development.